Economists: Transferring federal lands could generate revenue for Utah

Brian Maffly – The Salt Lake Tribune

The accounting of a federal land transfer depends on a lot of assumptions.

Utah can afford to take over 31.2 million acres managed by the federal government, according to a long-awaited economic study, but only if oil and gas prices remain stable and energy production stays on pace with the recent boom years.

The balance sheet also relies on energy revenues that currently pay for road construction being diverted to fighting wildfires and other land-management obligations.

A cadre of researchers from three public universities released a 784-page report Monday that is intended to guide state leaders in their long-term quest to gain control of federal land administered by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service.

Gov. Gary Herbert’s public lands advisers praised the report as “an optimistic, yet cautionary, examination” of the controversial move.

Environmentalists condemn the plan as an effort to throw open Utah’s public lands to industrial development without regard for federal environmental-protection laws. They figure the transfer would result in a sell-off of public lands. (…)

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